Question: Is it permitted to put a car in for servicing, or request any other service or repair, on a Friday afternoon, if it is known that a non-Jewish mechanic or craftsman will do the work on it on Shabbat?
Answer: The commandment to rest on Shabbat is one of the central commandments of the Torah. Not only is it forbidden to work – it is also forbidden to ask someone else, even a non-Jew, to do your work for you. The source of this prohibition is in the Talmud [Shabbat 150a] A person should not say to a Goy – go and hire me workers on Shabbat. This prohibition is called Amira LeGoy (instructing a non-Jew). Maimonides rules [Shabbat 6:1]: It is forbidden to instruct a Goy to do work on Shabbat, even though the Goy is not obligated to observe the Shabbat, even if he gives him the instruction before Shabbat commences, and even if he will only benefit from that labour after Shabbat is over. This is a Rabbinic prohibition, and its intention is to prevent a person from vicariously carrying out their normal work on Shabbat.
All of this applies to circumstances where one has specifically asked for the work to be carried out on Shabbat. But if one did not specify when the work is to be carried out, it is permitted to hand over the work on a Friday. This is the case even if the craftsman chose to carry out the work on Shabbat, for it was his own choice to work on Shabbat and a non-Jew is under no obligation to observe the Sabbath.
The Shulchan Aruch [OH 252:2,4] states: It is permitted to give his clothes to the laundry before Shabbat, or skins to a non-Jewish tanner if he set a fixed fee in advance and he did not specifically ask that the work be done on Shabbat. It is even permitted to wear the clothes on Shabbat itself, for anyone who works for a fixed fee chooses himself when to do the work. Moses Isserlis notes that one should not wear the clothes on that same Shabbat. In the case of a car repair all agree that it is permitted, for the mechanic could have chosen to repair the car on Friday afternoon or Saturday night or Sunday – and therefore it makes no difference to us if the mechanic chose to do the work on Shabbat.
The situation is more complicated if there is not sufficient time to do the work unless it is done on Shabbat. The Magen Avraham [OH 307:3] writes that if there was a Saturday market, it is forbidden to give a non-Jew money before Shabbat and ask him to buy things in the market. Since the market is only open on Shabbat, this is as if he had been instructed to make the purchases on Shabbat. Even if he had not specifically been asked to do the work on Shabbat, the non-Jew has no choice but to do it then, and it counts as if he had been asked to do so. However, Joseph Karo in the Shulchan Aruch does not adopt this ruling. He maintains that as long as there was not a specific instruction to do the work on Shabbat, any work carried out by non-Jews is permitted.
In this case the custom of Ashkenazi Jews is to follow the Magen Avraham and therefore only give work to a non-Jew before Shabbat if there is sufficient time for it to be done without working on Shabbat. Sephardi Jews follow the rulings of Joseph Karo, and therefore permit any work to be given to a non-Jew before Shabbat, as long as there was not a specific request to do the work on Shabbat itself.
Rabbi Chaim Weiner
Based on R. Ovadia Yossef, Yachve Da’at, 3, 17.
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